Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rates may include some historic local highs for the County, but, overall, the County continues to do better than most of California and an emerging, regional emphasis on the Green Economy and Green Jobs throughout California’s Central Coast could make the local economy even stronger in the years to come, according to data presented today, September 24, by the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) of Santa Barbara County at the annual Goleta Economic Summit.
Presenters Josh A. Williams, President, BW Research Partnership Inc., and Bill Buratto, President/CEO, Ventura County Economic Development Association (VCEDA), gave their assessments of the local economy, jobs and the Green Economy on behalf of the WIB to attendees at the Goleta Economic Summit produced by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The two talked about the County’s unemployment rates, which, countywide, averaged at about 8.9 percent for August 2010, according to the latest data released by the state Employment Development Department (EDD). The trend continues to be that the central and northern areas of the County have the highest rates, with Lompoc and Guadalupe both at about 15 percent, even though Solvang registered the lowest rate of any County city at 3.4 percent.
“Southern Santa Barbara County and, in particular, Goleta and Carpinteria, both have unemployment rates of 4.4 percent, which is far below the state (at 12.4 percent) and the nation (at 9.5 percent),” Williams noted. “Even the City of Santa Barbara is below those averages too at 6.3 percent.” And while tourism officials have recently indicated that the leisure travel and hospitality sectors in the county are making a positive turnaround, Santa Barbara County’s agricultural industry has seen nearly 3,000 jobs gained since 2008, Buratto said.
“Construction and sustainable farming operations are two of the most active and promising sectors of the Green Economy too,” Buratto said.
The economic duo defined the Green (sometimes also called the “Clean”) Economy as activities or services that perform at least one of the following: Generating or storing renewable energy; Recycling existing materials; Energy efficient product manufacturing, distribution, construction, installation or maintenance; Education, compliance & awareness; and Natural and sustainable product manufacturing.
From a workforce perspective, being part of the Green Economy means individuals, businesses, educators, government agencies, the military, investors and others—with a variety of education levels, skill sets and financial backing—can be used to complete research and development of alternative energy sources; build new resource-friendly and energy-efficient homes, commercial facilities and infrastructure; engage in sustainable farming activities and operate cleaner, more energy-efficient utilities.
Currently, the County’s WIB is working with its counterparts in the Central Coast area to help develop regional priorities, assess strengths and weaknesses, survey employers, and identify regional “Clusters of Opportunities” where investments, catalyst projects, programs and other activities can have the greatest impact on fostering a robust Green Economy, they said.
Stakeholder meetings regarding the Green Economy for those in agriculture and construction are being organized now to occur next month. For more information about the Central Coast’s Green Economy Planning Project, the public should call Victoria Sanchez at the WIB at (805) 681-4431 or by email.
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The Workforce Investment Board, is dedicated to serving the workforce needs of businesses, adults, laid-off workers and youth throughout Santa Barbara County. The WIB is a public/private partnership created by the Federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and is staffed by the County of Santa Barbara.
Job seekers and employers can take advantage of free services at two Workforce Resource Centers (“One-Stops”) to help find work or new employees. Programs include employment services for job seekers, the latest labor market information and regional workforce research for businesses, as well as training that specialize in helping people gain the skills and confidence necessary to find and obtain a job. The One-Stop Shops are at 1410 S. Broadway in Santa Maria, (805) 614-1550, and 130 E. Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, (805) 568-1296. Online information.